Safari with E-PL5 and ZD 70-300

Started Aug 19, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Dorus
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Safari with E-PL5 and ZD 70-300
Aug 19, 2013

I was fortunate enough to be able to go on a two-week safari with my family. I had been looking to 'upgrade' from my prior Oly, the venerable E-520, and had settled on the EM-5 or E-PL5 (very different cameras, I know, but the same sensor). This was not a real photo safari, and we did of course see the herds with kahki vests and big super lenses, so getting the best close up picture of an elephant's eye was not one of my goals. I just wanted to get a nice 'reportage' of the entire vacation, with some nice animal pics thrown in for good measure. Thus, I took the ZD 70-300 (not the m43 version) with me, with the Photasy adapter (from EBay).

I will post some pictures in a few days and provide a link to the gallery, but here are some initial impressions. First off, the E-PL5 is a fantastic little machine, and I have to say that the collapsible 14-42 kit lens is no slouch either. very responsive, quick to focus, and a nice size to have around your neck all day, while still being guaranteed high level image quality. in the harsh light of Southern Africa, the sensor held up very well, and contract and detail are excellent. The tilting LCD screen, which I had pretty much disregarded as a gimmick, turned out to be great for hip-level candids. It took me a few days to get used to the size of the camera and the controls being so close together, but that issue is clearly balanced by the portability.

I used the ZD 70-300 for wildlife pictures, and I am happy with the final results, but not necessarily with the process. In particular, the focusing process was bewildering, and often frustrating. The lens would sometimes focus, and sometimes not, and sometimes claim to be focused while being somewhat (or wildly) off. Also, the combination had a strong preference to focus on grasses and branches (high contrast) while ignoring the animal which has lower contrast. This is not necessarily surprising, and since we typically had plenty of time to view the animals not a complete dealbreaker for this combination, but I am curious how a dedicated m43 zoom would have performed. I mostly used the central focus point and the tried and true 'focus then recompose' approach, because leaving it up to the camera/lens combination what to focus on just did not work most of the time. Having a smaller focus point progbably would have helpes somewhat too.

Still, image quality is great, at least relative to my expectations. I did not have a tripod so all were handheld or stabilized (in a relative sense) against the frame of the bus. As long as I had the opportunity to take multiple pics, I could typically get several that were satisfactory. I have provided a single example here, so you can get a glimpse. I won't have much time to edit or post the rest for a few more days, so consider this a teaser.

I did minimal processing so far. Typically lifting the shadows a tad and adding a bit of fill light after was sufficient for my taste. YMMV.

Here's one of an accommodating lion, just to give you an impression of fairly typical results. make sure to use the loupe to get a sense of the detail.

Dorus

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